Two Rats on the TAT

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by ratsGoneRogue, Aug 24, 2017.

  1. ratsGoneRogue

    ratsGoneRogue Adventurer

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    Quit our jobs. Sold our home. Gonna ride the TAT.

    I'm Steve and I'll be riding with my wife, Amanda. We were inspired by watching Ed and Rachel do the TAT...watching their posts on YouTube...reading their blog on ADVrider. It looked like too much fun. Further investigation brought me to the Ride Reports of this fine website. Perusing through two dozen or so of those, and I think we were sold. Sounds like our kind of fun.

    I'm on a KTM 500 EXC. She's on a Suzuki DR200. Special thanks to the folks over at the DR200 thread for helping us build an adventure-worthy rig out of the DR200. The bike is a hoot to ride, is capable, and super simple to service. Also, thanks to all those on this website who write constructive, thoughtful, positive posts on how to do this. From tool kits to camping kit, whenever we had a question, we'd consult this website.

    I'm writing in KTM orange. Amanda will be writing in
    green. Amanda, say something to the people:

    Mark my words, everyone: I will be towing my joker husband with my DR200 somewhere on the trail. Just wait for that post.

    The journey starts on August 21. Maybe a little late in the season for a TAT ride, but if we don't do it now, when are we going to do it, right? Our ADV experience is a little thin. But what we lack in experience we hope to make up with time (we have no deadline) and with a cultivated attitude for adventure.

    Amanda's got an Instagram account, @ratsGoneRogue, that has pics, but I'll try to post some here, too.
    #1
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  2. i4bikes

    i4bikes Been here awhile

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    I'm n, good luck.
    #2
  3. doglost1

    doglost1 Been here awhile

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    Sounds like a grand adventure!! Enjoy and remember....safety third!! (Seriously, be careful out there!)


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    #3
  4. DualDawg

    DualDawg Been Lurking

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    Sounds great! Looking forward to progress and updates! Be safe!
    #4
  5. ratsGoneRogue

    ratsGoneRogue Adventurer

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    Post #1

    August 19, 2017
    Andrews, NC to Dam Creek Campsite
    Daily Miles: 55.3
    Cumulative Miles: 55.3


    "So where y'all from," says the UHaul lady with that charming southern drawl. We'd just arrived in our 10 foot box truck, five days driving from downtown San Francisco to the start of the TAT. The UHaul location here was a laundromat in a very small town. Seeing only one other UHaul truck here, I assumed she didn't see much action. She was curious.

    "We're from California," I replied. "We are riding the Trans America Trail on our dirt bikes."

    "You're gonna ride the what??" she said, somewhat confused.

    So began the first few moments of our TAT experience. We had explained the TAT to our friends and family and work colleagues for a few months now, so we rehearsed the usual description. We'd gotten good at it.

    It took about an hour and change to unload the bikes, get them all rigged up, and then get dressed for the show. "I'm sure we're forgetting something," I thought to myself, as I let the clutch out on my bike. As we pulled away, the UHaul lady gave us a "well, y'all be careful now!", one of the many well-wishers we would find on the trail. We took a left on the Locust street. Mile 0.00.

    For the past week, we'd been in a UHaul truck driving across the country. For the two and a half weeks before that, we'd been holed up in the warehouse that is the SF Moto Guild, a do-it-yourself moto repair shop near San Francisco. There, we'd installed and tested the last few mods, put some fresh oil in the bikes and generally got comfortable with our machines. So the green forest canopy of the Cherokee National Forest and it's clean scent was a welcome change from the stale vinyl seat of an old truck. Finally. It took a little to time to warm to the bikes, but warm we did. We were off.

    Recall that the solar eclipse was on August 21 and that the first part of the TAT was on or near the path of totality. I'm guessing the Cherokee National Forest got more than it's fair share of attendance that weekend. We ran into two folks on an ADV ride in the area, the 500 somethin'-or-rather. Martin (DR650) and Theresa (plated KTM 250 XCW) saw us, motioned to us, and shared their story with us. Not 2 hours into the ride, we received another strong dose of well-wishes from complete strangers.

    We eventually found a spot to camp--the place was swarming with folks there for the eclipse--at the Dam Creek walk-in campsite. It was little early to retire for the day, but we worried that if we waited any longer, all the campsites would be taken. Tent deployed, we walked down to the stream to rinse our red hot faces with cool water, relief from the 90 degree heat and humidity.



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    #5
  6. ratsGoneRogue

    ratsGoneRogue Adventurer

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    Post #2

    August 20, 2017
    Dam Creek Campsite to Tumbling Creek Campsite
    Cherokee National Forest
    Daily Miles: 103.4
    Cumulative Miles: 158.7


    "So why did they take that line?," I say to myself as I look at our second water crossing of the day. I had seen videos of this part of the TAT. I even recognized the same water crossing as one in the videos. I decide to go to the left instead of the right, as others had in the videos I'd seen. As the Kato hits the middle of the crossing, the front wheel drops into a hole I hadn't anticipated, the water a little deeper than I expected, and the pucker factor goes to 4 on a 7 scale. "That's why," I say as I exit the crossing.


    If I had a nickel every time I benefited from Steve's wrong line, there would be a guy waiting for me with a glass of prosecco at the end of each one of my rides. [Editor's note: Amanda is writing in green.]

    Still in the Cherokee National Forest, the lush green continues to envelope the trail. Where we ride, California foliage this time of year is kind of a turd brown. It's the "golden state," I know, but I think that's only for a few weeks or so in May. So I'm loving the green. I don't know how the trail workers schedule their work, but there appears to be fresh gravel laid on the trail. Nothing scary, about 1-2 two inches of small rock, but it's enough to keep the bike squirming a little bit and you on your toes. Sharp corners are fun, in the same way that slip and slide is fun.

    It's the day before the eclipse now. The forest is full of visitors, at least more folks than I've ever seen in a national forest. We pop out of the forest and make our way to Copperhill, Tennessee. This small town has a traffic jam, with river rafting buses, eclipse-goers, and the locals all on the road. We make a attempt to find a hotel for the evening. Four tries and everything is booked. No dice. So it's back to the forest for us. There, it's quickly clear that folks have taken all the good spots.

    About 8 miles back into the Cherokee/Chattahoochee National Forest, we roll up on a campsite, later identified as Tumbling Creek. I say hello to what appears to be the campsite host, and we roll into what looks like a spot. I walk over to the campsite host.

    The campsite host is straight out of central casting. 5 foot 10 inches, blue overalls, bushy white hair and beard, ratty grey shirt, big boots, 70 some years of age. An antique looking pipe hangs out of his mouth and his teeth are gnarled and black. "They call me Mayor Dick," he said to me, "because I spend so much time here at the campsite. The forest service sees me as their eyes and ears. I keep an eye on this place, if you know what I mean." I see a woman in the back of his campsite area, but she doesn't say anything to me. Mayor Dick's dog initially barked and snarled at me when I approached, but some harsh words from Mayor Dick have temporarily silenced her.

    I look around the campsite. A dilapidated sedan sits across the dirt road with its hood up, and the long grass underneath the car struggles for sunshine. There are a couple of abandoned tents, and litter is strewn about. Somewhere down near the end of the campsite, I hear people, and they are blaring music from their car. I make out Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues, "well I shot a man in Reno...just to watch him die." And then there is Mayor Dick's rig: a 1970's van with the hood up. A tarp covers both the van and the area where we now stand. We exchange a few more pleasantries, and I think he appreciates the fact that I've sought him out. I come to learn that there is no designated camp ground host to this campsite, as I had thought. In fact there really is no campsite. It was decommissioned three years ago. This is now dispersed camping in the forest.

    While we are talking Mayor Dick goes over to the woodpile. He bends down to pick up a log, the slow movement seems to indicate some sort of pain or discomfort. He grabs a cylindrical log and sets it upright on another log. (This is all while carrying on a conversation with me.) He grabs a large axe sitting nearby and with a single swing of the axe splits this large log in two. I was befuddled: he had difficulty picking up the log and setting it down, but he had no difficulty swinging that axe and splitting the log.

    "So, yeah, that there site is just fine. Just know that your neighbors are the don't-want-to-work homeless type and they're likely to roll in around 1 or 2 in the morning a little tipsy. Don't mind them, even if they sound ornery. I had a black bear sniffing at my kitchen last night, so put your food somewhere else. And the bushes right next to where your bike is...forest service trapped a few copperheads there a couple of weeks ago." Mayor Dick was thorough in his briefing, much as I imagine a campsite host would be.


    Have you guys ever seen the movie, Deliverance? Yeah, that was my first thought. We are going to be chopped into bits in our sleep and sprinkled over this guy's grits tomorrow morning. Our version of the TAT will last two days.

    Somewhere near 7pm, Mayor Dick's female companion (not his wife, as I was harshly corrected) comes over. She introduces herself. Tricia is her name. Her accent is thick. She offers us dinner. We decline, as right before coming into the forest, we had something to eat in Copperhill.

    Time passes. We think several thoughts. These guys have nothing, and they offer us dinner. That was an invitation. Let's not be lame.


    We can't be lame.


    We walk over to their campsite. The dog snarls at us. It takes some courage, but I get down on one knee in front the dog. She seems nasty. She approaches of her own volition, all the while angry about something. But in between some barks, she sniffs me. Then she sniffs my hand and quiets a little. I take the moment to rub her chest. She is immediately disarmed. She instantly transforms into my best friend, exposes her belly, and won't leave my side for the rest of the night.

    We sit down near Mayor Dick's unlit campfire. He squeezes way too much lighter fluid on a pile of wood and tosses a match, and a small fireball climbs toward the tree canopy. We sit down and talk and laugh until bedtime.

    Mayor Dick's digs:


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    #6
  7. scooterintexas

    scooterintexas Been here awhile

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    Subscribed. Change the font color, especially the yellow. It is very difficult to read.
    #7
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  8. JoeR68

    JoeR68 Been here awhile

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    In!!!
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  9. doglost1

    doglost1 Been here awhile

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    Rock On! You two rats are gonna have a frickn' hell of an adventure on the TAT! First day in and referring to 'deliverance' !! Scheeeze!!! (Btw---rode down near Andrews to see the eclipse--1150 miles total trip! Was awesome!![​IMG]


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  10. Ginger Beard

    Ginger Beard I have no soul

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    Great start. Subbed!
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  11. OlMoose

    OlMoose Fredneck Riend

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    In x 2!
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  12. EnduroRdr

    EnduroRdr Woods Racer & D/S Rider

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    I enjoyed Ed & Rachel's adventure also.
    So naturally I'm in for yours too!
    Good luck, safe travels, looking forward to following along!


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    #12
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  13. Romero

    Romero Been here awhile

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    Love it! You guys had me at Suzuki and Prosecco!!! Ride safe!
    #13
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  14. chudzikb

    chudzikb Been here awhile

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    People with nothing always surprise you, sometimes to the good. Glad it worked out for you, it is an adventure.
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  15. 1stgenfarmboy

    1stgenfarmboy The Sherpa Man

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    in, ride safe......and if not safe at least have fun.
    #15
  16. ratsGoneRogue

    ratsGoneRogue Adventurer

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    let me know if the changes (darker orange/green) are any better. the originals seemed fine on the advrider black background. on the tapatalk white background, they sucked.
    #16
  17. ratsGoneRogue

    ratsGoneRogue Adventurer

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    probably one of the cooler rigs i've seen. thanks for the well wishes. hope the eclipse was great!
    #17
  18. 1stgenfarmboy

    1stgenfarmboy The Sherpa Man

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    yes the changes are nice.
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  19. EnduroRdr

    EnduroRdr Woods Racer & D/S Rider

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    Yes, the green is much easier to read - I get most updates using Tapatalk (white background)


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  20. ratsGoneRogue

    ratsGoneRogue Adventurer

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    Post #3

    August 21, 2017
    Tumbling Creek Campsite to Chatsworth, GA
    Cherokee National Forest
    Daily Miles: 88.7
    Cumulative Miles: 247.4


    We rolled out of tumbling creek and gave a fond farewell to Mayor Dick and Tricia. They were early risers and were enjoying a morning campfire.

    Eclipse day. We had planned the start of our TAT trip to coincide with the eclipse, and the forest was teeming with folks. Not exactly clear to me why this is. Why go to the forest to see an eclipse? Tree canopy?? Well, when we came to a robust clearing, folks were huddled to see the view. I saw some high powered telescopes and cameras. It was serious. Amanda had purchased these super cheap solar eclipse glasses at Lowe's, and they worked just fine.

    We soon discovered the TAT story sells. Any time we were stopped, folks came over to us and asked us what we were up to. Our bikes are California plated, and that probably helps too.

    "So you came all the way from California," said one guy who was riding his mountain bike in the forest. He looked a little overweight to be charging hills on a mountain bike in 90 degree heat, but dammit, he was persistent.

    "Well, we trailered the bikes from California. Now we are riding back to the west coast. To Oregon," I responded. It took a minute for the guy to process this. "Wait...to Oregon?!?" As we were talking to the mountain bike guy, another couple came up on their way to see the eclipse. They too started listening to the story. And third guy passing in a Honda Element stopped to take in the last part. Subsequent to this event, we've had a number of people approach us. Of course, there I am all dirt-bike-geared-out standing in line at the Subway. It invites conversation. I'm also pleasantly surprised to find the motorcycle brotherhood/sisterhood strong here in the south. I walked back to my bike in a parking lot to find someone checking out our bikes in a non-thieving way. He rode a bike, and we connected over rides in California. For the most part, motorcyclists respond to the hand waves I toss out.

    We said goodbye to the forest and descended on Chatsworth, GA. People were in the streets with glasses, cameras and telescopes. The streets and highways were abnormally subdued. We rode into a Super 8 parking lot just as we were getting to full strength on the eclipse. Booked a room and then stood outside to watch totality. The hotel staff came outside. One of 'em had a kid, who was apparently let out of school early to see the eclipse. We offered one of our two glasses to the kid so he could see it. He took a quick look at the sun, said "whoa!", and then seemed to be more interested in our bikes. A kid after my own heart.



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    #20